Burton Albion's 200th Football League fixture was anything but a celebration as a below par performance saw them slip to a 2-0 defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge. Victoria Road has rarely been a happy hunting ground for the Brewers and so it proved again as a Zavon Hines penalty on eight minutes and a Luke Howell header in the second half sealed the points for the East London side. Hines was a constant menace and he won and converted a soft penalty in just the eighth minute before providing the free kick that Howell steered in early in the second half.
With selection decisions aplenty for Brewers boss Gary Rowett it came down to three changes in the end. After serving his one match suspension for two yellow cards against Morecambe, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff returned to partner Ian Sharps at the heart of the Burton defence with Zander Diamond the unfortunate man to drop to the bench. Further up the pitch Alex MacDonald returned to the side on the right hand side of midfield with Billy Kee missing out, Adam McGurk preferred as the lone striker. Returning from his brief recall to the Stadium Of Light, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford resumed between the posts and with Dean Lyness struggling with a foot injury there was a return to the substitutes for Kevin Poole.
The Daggers made a bright start to the game but referee David Phillips brandished an early yellow card to Albion's Phil Edwards for 'persistent' fouling after two innocuous fouls on Zavon Hines inside the first three minutes.
Albion though had the first clear chance on six minutes when Matty Palmer swung over a corner and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was denied by the legs of the goalkeeper. The Daggers responded though by bursting up the pitch and winning a penalty. Zavon Hines tried to burst into the area and went down as Edwards challenged. Referee Phillips took a few moments to make his mind up and eventually pointed to the spot, HINES stepping up and confidently despatching the ball into the top corner of the net. The goalscorer then found himself in the book for handling the ball before it went out for a throw.
Burton still found themselves somewhat under the cosh and a long range effort from Medy Elito flew just wide of the target as Albion backed off and allowed him to advance forwards and have a go at goal. Eventually the Brewers began to settle into the game but chances were at a premium. Robbie Weir had the clearest opportunity when he found space at the back pot from a corner but his effort was tame and easy for Chris Lewington to drop onto.
Matty Palmer picked up Albion's second yellow card of the afternoon, also for a foul on Hines, but this time Albion survived the set piece - the free kick earning a corner that Albion eventually cleared. Weir then had another chance to equalise as a good move created an opening on the edge of the box but his low show was straight at the keeper.
It was becoming a much more even contest as the half wore on and Elito hit a rising shot over the bar as Albion struggled to clear their lines and Matty Palmer rattled a shot wide of the post as the first half entered its latter stages.
Half time: Dagenham & Redbridge 1-0 Burton Albion
Burton came out for the second half full of purpose and intent. Chris Hussey's teasing run along the goalline forced Lewington to push his cross into a dangerous area of the penalty area with nobody able to capitalise and a stinging shot from McGurk forced Lewington into a save away to his right.
Plamer was inches away from a goal as Alex MacDonald's cross was helped back across goal by McGurk but on 54 minutes Albion suffered the sucker punch second goal. Edwards was penalised for obstruction and when Hines swung in the free kick it was Luke HOWELL who timed his near post run perfectly to divert a header beyond Pickford for 2-0.
Albion's response a few minutes later was to revert to a 4-4-2 with Lee Bell sacrificed for Michael Symes. The move almost paid immediate dividends as Palmer delivered a free kick to an unmarked Symes at the back post. He put the ball back in for Ian Sharps whose shot was helped goalwards by Shane Cansdell-Sherriff with a deflection off a defender just enough to divert the ball over the crossbar.
Hines darted down the left on a searing run that almost set up a third for the Daggers but his cross just eluded his team mate at the far post.
A second Burton change on 70 minutes saw Jimmy Phillips come on as a direct replacement for Alex MacDonald who was now operating on the left. Symes, meanwhile, directed a header over the crossbar when Phil Edwards right wing cross picked him out on 75 minutes. The ex-Accrington man disappointed on 79 minutes when he was again found unmarked at the back post from a corner but got his volley completely wrong, skying it well over the crossbar.
Rowett's last throw of the dice was with ten minutes to go and Billy Kee was given a chance in attack as Chris Hussey made way. Shortly afterwards Symes was left struggling after a challenge with what looked like a groin problem but with all three substitutions made the big striker had to struggle on.
As the clock ran into stoppage time Symes cut a forlorn figure as he trudged off to prevent aggravating the injury further and with the last kick of the game Jordan Pickford made a superb save to deny Daggers substitute Chris Dickson whose volley was dipping under the crossbar until the Sunderland loanee stretched up a hand to expertly guide the ball over the bar.